The Zixi Qinliangshan Research Lab

This project was a part of a design challenge called 'The Lucitopia Rural Design Challenge' that took place in Qingliangshan national forest park, Zixi County, in Jiangxi Province of China in May 2018. It was a team project, wherein I represented France from Strate Ecole De Design, Paris. The theme of the project was 'how to reduce heavy human migration from rural to urban areas' which affected small villages and towns, that were being abandoned by Chinese population in search for better lifestyle in urban areas. This has resulted in cultural and traditional loss with infrastructural destruction of rural areas. Our project was focused on resolving this issue for Lucitopia town and work towards designing innovative solutions that would drive development and upliftment of the whole town.

Hosted by


Organized & Sponsored by


Qingliangshan, Zixi County, China.

Paris, France.

As our school was one of the participants in the challenge, 6 selected students (including me) had to travel by air from France to China to participate in the challenge. The challenge demanded the participants to stay on site in Lucitopia town and work in collaboration with locals to design a solution in a week's time on the given theme.

Our Journey



Qingliangshan national forest park, Zixi County

Qingliangshan national forest park is a protected forest zone which was based in Zixi County in the northeast region of Jiangxi province. The whole forest region is a mountaineous densely vegetated rough terrain, with immense biodiversity and home to some rare species which has been an important topic of research in China.

Mapping the Region

Our stay was in the Lucitopia town, which was an adopted old village undertaken by private entities to develop. To begin with the project, our team decided to study the region in detail and understand our constraints very well before we could dig further in our research. We made our own version of map that pointed out the essential interactions and touch points of the town.


Exploring & Understanding the surroundings

After studying and mapping the region, we decided to penetrate further in our terrain to closely understand the concerns and challenges that are being faced by the town. Our idea was to intially observe everything from our point of views and then interact with the locals to confirm some of our insights. This exercise allowed us to experience the local life and helped us understand the basic functioning of the town.

The Major Issue: Heavy Rural migration to urban areas

China being one of the most influential economy in the world and the pace at which it has been developing, has exposed some critical issues and one of them is human migration from rural to urban areas. Therefore, obviously this was the biggest factor which had stunted the growth of lucitopia town and resulted in people abandoning age old structures, life of the village and traditional amenities. 


Village population

Village population majorly consisted of old people in the age of  65 yrs and above and small kids and toddler in the age of 0-4 yrs. This distinct demography was because of the Chinese family tradition, wherein young couples leave their children with their grandparents to learn the culture, language and tradition of their region. While, the young couple migrate to urban areas in search for jobs and better lifestyle, this also helps young couples to dedicate more attention towards their career without bothering about their kids who are very well growing up with their grandparents in villages.


Created user persona of our potential stakeholder

After interviewing lot of locals we decided to select few user profiles to explore. We chose the most evident and obvious one, which was of a old man who worked in the village as a farmer. We sketched profile and highlighted some key aspect which could guide us in our research further, simultaneously we compared the profile of the rural old man to an urban old man. This exercise helped us understand differences and possible causes of what might have driven the urban old man from his native village and what could be the possible reasons for him to stay there.


Brainstormed the stakeholders related to our user in the order of personal social proximity

After creating a detailed profile of our user, we created a social proximity map to understand the interactions of the rural old man and how influential can those possibly be. Social proximity map helped us highlight some interesting prospects who could play a key role as a stakeholder in our project and could help the town retain other possible stakeholder that would have impact on our user.


Created a daily experience map to identify the opportunities

We also compared daily life scenario of a rural and urban old man. As we were still exploring in all directions to find some key clues to build a foundation of our project, we thought that daily life scenario with mood mapping would help us identity certain key details in the daily life which could be considered as a factor for driving the solution.

Investigating the issue

Our primary and speculative research with user interviews demanded us to go back on field to study daily life in detail. This time our aim was to observe the life from inside of the village, particularly from the homes and essential infrastructures. In our primary research we realised that facilities was one of the major reason for heavy migration. Hence, we decided to study those facilities which could be improved or developed by us, which would be feasible to execute for the town and help the town retain its population

'The Why?'

Lack of facilities 

Insights regarding the issue

From our research, these were key issues according to us which were affecting the town and causing migration from the town to cities.

Lack of education

Abandoned infrastructure 

No market for the produce

Lack of employment

disconnected mobility

of the region

Abandoned infrastructure 

No market 

Lack of employment


disconnected mobility

of the region

Lack of facilities 


Lack of education

Impact Meter

We placed our highlighted issues on the impact meter ranging from low impact to high impact, which helped us prioritise the most important and  crucial problem. As we had very less time on our hands we could not go in deep with every issue, hence we had prioritise and choose 1 or 2 to focus on.

Lack of education

Our Focus: Lack of Education and related


Lack of Education was our most important issue and the context of our project, as we realised that mostly young couples left villages in search of Jobs and better education for their kids. We believed that education was the most important factor which was interlinked with all the other issues. If we improved the education infrastructure, it would help the town retain most of the population, it would provide immense employment to the village and help in improving quality of life.

'The Only Kid'

Village school had only one student 

We visited the town school because that was our main focus area and we decided to interact with students and teachers in the school to understand the situation better. But, to our surprise we were informed that the whole town school had just one student and 2 teachers. This information made our study more challenging because now we did not have direct insights from the influential users. At this point of time we also decided to change our main user(the old man) to this young kid of age 6 yrs whose name was Jiang Xiaojiang. At this point of our research we were kind of running short of time, so we decided to interact with Jiang's family and his teacher to understand the scenario.


Our main user

Jiang Xiaojiang

We understood that the village and the town school did not have enough educational machinary and financial muscle to continue any longer. Our focus was to retain and save the school was closing down.

Lucitopia Town School


Lucitopia town


Internal Stakeholders

Our opportunity area


So basically after representing all our research in a schematic diagram, we were found the exact opportunity point. We had to design a service which will connect the town and school with external stakeholders and establish an interaction which would help resolve the issue highlighted by us.


External Stakeholders

External Stakeholders

International Entities

(Companies & Universities)

Xiamen University

(Local University)

Sinuote Bio-tech

(Private research company)

user requirements-01.png

Visual Representation of Key Stake Holder's needs

We created a requirement map for our key stakeholders to find common tangents to work on.

connection map-02.png

Engaged Guidance.      Profound partnerships.      Pragmatic Opportunities.      Self-Reliant Economy

Computing Needs into best possible combination

to determine the creativity Axis

We connected similar or relevant requirements to create interesting directions which are denoted through the keywords. These keywords helped us create our creativity axis that would serve as a guideline to start designing our solution. In this project we had to present just one strong concept, hence we did not have enough time iterate more ideas, and therefore we had to be very traditional and direct with our approach.

Defining the creativity axis from the key words

Considering the 4 keywords we combined them to create our creativity axis which would be a final direct personal brief for us to design the solution.

Engaged Guidance. +  Profound Partnerships. +  Pragmatic Opportunities + Self-Reliant Economy = Creativity Statement

" To create profound partnerships between stakeholders through engaged guidance, which will open opportunities to make the Lucitopia town a self sufficient and self reliant economy"

Our Concept: The Final Solution


Zixi-Qinliangshang Research Lab

ZIXI RESEARCH LAB is public-private partnership between Xiamen university and their partner universities abroad, and Sinuote Biotech. 


The partnership aims to expand and improve local innovation and research while exploring the rich biodiversity in Qinliangshan. Research lab is an initiative to include the town in overall development of the region, as well as provide an on-field research opportunity for motivated Environmental scientists, Biotech researchers, young PhD pursuants, students etc. to engage and work in realtime premises to advance their research work.

The Lab acts an a medium between local villagers and the researcher, wherein the locals recruted by the lab are paid ethical salaries in return for their support towards the researchers in form of food supplies, navigational guidance of the region, man power and residential support. The resident researchers are asked to teach in the village schools as well as advice and actively engage in the development projects of the town. ZIXI Research Lab is an effort to create a self reliant, trustworthy circular engagement between all the stakeholders through an all-inclusive policy.

On-field research
Improve mobility to town
Advance experiment facilities
Specimen storage 
Provide Teachers for village school
Provide Employment to villagers

Service design model

Below is the schematic representation of the whole service and how ZIXI Research Lab creates web of interactions which snychronises itself in a pattern that revolves around the village school, Village and the rural community. The service plugs in the external elements into a relationship with the village that would collaborate towards development and economical upliftment of the region.

ecosystem mapping-03.png

Jiang Xiaojiang


Lucitopia town

Lucitopia town school

Xiamen university

(Local university)

Sinuote Bio-tech

(Private research company)

International Entities

(Companies & Universities)

Zixi Qinliangshang 

Research Lab

ZIXI research lab becomes the facilitating link between stakeholders that control and manages the interactions, as well as leads and overlooks the development projects, supports the community and strengthens the quality of life in Lucitopia town.

My Experience

This project was a very exciting and motivating experience as a whole, this was my first time that I travelled to an on-site location in a foreign country to experience the issues from first hand point of view. The challenge exposed me to Chinese culture and their way of life, it acted as a multicultural platform that allowed us to compete by expressing our identities and thought processes from our places of origin. It was refreshing to watch various nationalities working on an issue which was not directly connected to their own countries, but it reflected true globalism and how having foreign outlook could help locals resolve issues in a different way. I would consider this as an opportunity to also thank my team mates Jordan (American) and Jiajin (Chinese) who were my classmates from France, and the whole organising team from China and Netherlands that supported and guided during the whole challenge.

The Winning Team!

I was representing France, from Strate Ecole de Design, Paris. 

Participating Countries: 








Nothing Ends without a Crazy football match


The whole group of the challenge